There’s a long-standing trend in literature that favors male over female authors. Publishers give disproportionally more space to male writers. Media outlets seek male reviewers. In turn, we see more books on the shelves with male protagonists. In the US, only 30% of books translated into English are written by women.
That said, it’s not shocking that male writers win the majority of literary prizes, critical reviews, and publishing contracts. And what becomes of insanely talented women and non-binary authors who write female protagonists? Well, they rarely win. Still, there are female authors who are fighting against these statistics and creating brilliant work.
Here’s our list of the 9 best debut books of 2018 by female authors (including gender non-binary authors).
‘Educated: A Novel’ by Tara Westover
Tara Westover was raised in rural Idaho by an ultra-isolated survivalist family. By the time she stepped into a school classroom, she was 17 years old. In Educated: A Novel, Westover shares a story about a young woman’s quest for knowledge. A journey that transforms her life and takes her across the world, from isolated life in her father’s junkyard, to Harvard, then on to Cambridge to earn a PhD.
An amazing memoir by a talented female writer, Educated is for anyone who’s life calls them on a journey outward.
Check out Westover’s memoir here.
‘America Is Not the Heart’ by Elaine Castillo
One of the best debut novels in recent years, America Is Not The Heart is the deeply touching story of a Filipino family who leaves home, trades one life for another, and settles in the Northern California. A fierce, intimate novel, illumining immigrant life in America, Castillo’s work looks at what happens when we cross borders, start our lives over, and form new identities. Do we become new people? What’s at the heart of these experience?
An incredible debut from one of the best female authors out there. Find the book here.
‘Welcome to Lagos’ by Chibundu Onuzo
Deserting the army seems justified when you’ve been ordered to kill civilians. Welcome to Lagos opens deep in the Niger Delta where officer Chike Ameobi, along with an unlikely group of four fellow deserters, seek freedom and a new life. But, as they find their place in a new city, they become involved in a political scandal and are forced to make life-altering decisions.
Brilliant with detail, Welcome to Lagos takes readers on a journey into an incredible city where lives intersect in a story of courage, struggle, and survival.
Check out the book here.
‘Love, Hate and Other Filters’ by Samira Ahmed
American-born Maya Aziz is caught between two worlds. As a seventeen-year-old Indian-American Muslim female, there’s the proper path that satisfies her parents’ expectations. And then, there’s the world of her dreams. Maya is finding her way forward. But, when a horrific crime happens hundreds of miles away, across the country, her life and consciousness are altered and Maya must wade through the bigotry and hatred of neighbors and classmates in her community and discover where she truly belongs.
This novel confronts Islamophobia and the real world realities we can’t understand, explain, or avoid.
Find Ahmed’s book here.
‘Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances’ by Ruth Emmie Lang
Weylyn Grey is pretty weird. Raised by wolves, orphaned, the proud owner of a pig named Merlin, Weylyn knows he’s unlike the people around him. Then one stormy day, he miraculously stops a tornado and realizes just how different he really is.
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance tells the story from the perspectives of the people who knew Weylyn best. It’s a book about this strange boy who lives with wolves, about storms that disappear into the Oklahoma air, an old house filled with cobwebs, and the odd man who lives in it.
Want to read an amazing novel about adventure, love, nature, and wonder written by one of our most talented female authors?
Find Lang’s book here.
‘Brass’ by Xhenet Aliu
Waterbury is a town of immigrants. Elsie, a waitress, is saving her wages and hoping to build a better life. Bashkim, a married man, came from Albania to chase his dreams and now works as a cook. Each person came to chase a dream, but now, Waterbury is the place they cannot escape. In Brass, these fated travelers fall in love. But when Elsie learns that she’s pregnant, she begins to wonder where Bashkim’s heart really lies, and what he’ll do about the life and lover he left behind.
Brass traces the parallel narratives of Elsie and her daughter, Luljeta. Does the key to their future lie in unlocking the secrets of the past? The truth is closer than you might think.
Find the book here.
‘Peach’ by Emma Glass
Peach is the victim of sexual assault. She’s in physical pain and psychological distress. At home, her parents can’t seem to comprehend that anything has happened to their daughter. In the days that follow the attack, Peach tries to go back to her ordinary life and prepare for college. But unacknowledged trauma upends her life. And, when her plans are derailed and her life course is altered, Peach finally begins to understand what she must do.
In Peach, author Emma Glass writes about unspeakable pain in rhythmic, visceral prose. We can’t undo what happens to us, but we can return to the world and move forward.
Check out the book here.
‘Freshwater’ by Akwaeke Emezi
Ada has a fractured self. As a child in Nigeria, she navigates a fractured identity in a culture that doesn’t understand it. When she moves to America for college, the selves within her grow in power and distinction. But, when, Ada’s assaulted, her alternate selves, Asughara and Saint Vincent, crystalize and take control and her original identity fades into the background.
Freshwater is narrated by the various selves within Ada. Based in the female author’s realities, it tells the story of a life spiraling downward in destructive directions. This is a book with incredible energy and profound grace.
Find it here.
‘The Wedding Date’ by Jasmine Guillory
Alexa and Drew Nichols meet when they’re stuck together in a broken-down elevator. Tomorrow, Drew will attend his ex’s wedding. He takes Alexa as his fake date. It’s supposed to be just another fun night. But when they have a better time than ever imaged, their connection becomes real, and Drew and Alexa must navigate their differences in pursuit of love.
This is a book real-life love, about distinguishing between what we think we need and what we truly want.
Check out this fun, debut novel here.
What do you think of our list? Do you have a favorite writer? Help us add more female authors and gender non-binary authors by sharing in the comments!
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